Noemi’s Berlin Apartment

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(Image credit: Celeste Sunderland)

Name: Noemi
Location: Berlin, Germany

Beyond a lush garden courtyard, a tall twisting staircase leads to the top floor of a 19th century apartment building. Ivy-framed windows open wide as cool summer air drifts through elegant rooms inspired by the historic abodes of German philosophers, English writers, and even French queens. Permeated with history, this bright, sunny home houses an exceptional collection of period furnishings that testifies to Noemi’s desire to maintain the exquisite designs of the past.

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(Image credit: Celeste Sunderland)

A sense of preservation mingles with an air of progress in elegant rooms arranged sparingly with fine antiques. Surely museum-worthy, this lovingly amassed trove doesn’t feel heavy with time. Instead, a vibrant creativity characterizes Noemi’s artful displays. Beautiful old pieces are often re-purposed, or placed in unusual places to create an element of surprise. A Victorian dress form adds whimsy to the kitchen—perhaps a tribute to the maids who once lived in these former servants’ quarters (In Berlin, the well to do families lived in the front houses, while the back houses were reserved for staff); and there’s a beautiful old model sailboat in the bathroom. A hand painted cabinet dating from the 1830s holds dishes in Noemi’s modern kitchen, while throughout the house, antique suitcases are used for storage as well as side tables. And then there are the books. Oh those beautiful old books… Yes, I think Miss Austen and Herr Goethe could get along quite well here.

(Image credit: Celeste Sunderland)


My style: A 21st century version of German Romanticism and Biedermeier – mixed with some rococo, art deco and flea market elements.

Inspiration: Period paintings from the late 1700s to the early 1800s, great houses and castles – Goethe´s house in Weimar is a real inspiration, but also Marie Antoinette’s Petit Trianon at Versailles, Gustav III’s Pavilion in Sweden, New England, Edward Hopper, the furniture collection at the Metropolitain Museum of Art in New York, some interior design books.

Favorite Element: The display cabinet where I keep the china, probably England circa 1820 – 1830. I love the smooth shine of walnut and the simplistic yet elegant form.

Biggest Challenge: Finding the right shelves for the books. First, we looked for antique ones but it’s basically impossible to get them because most people could afford very few books in former times. After months of discussing, we chose these shelves by the Berlin based artist Rafael Horzon: Much better than Ikea Billies, yet simple in style and still affordable.

Biggest Embarrassment: I would love to tear down the wood chip wall paper in the study and have painted walls in all rooms – dark burgundy in the study, an empire blue in the parlour, soft grey in the hall, a soft pinkish beige in the kitchen…

(Image credit: Celeste Sunderland)

What Friends Say: They love it. When they hear it isn’t so expensive to find these vintage pieces, they want to redecorate their apartments.

Proudest DIY: Technology – We enjoy the style and sound of our 1940s-era telephones but we dial the numbers via our computers and we have caller ID.

Biggest Indulgence: Upholstering the two neo-rococo chairs I inherited. They were really damaged and had a horrible green velvet fabric. No one thought it was worth having them redone for a whole month’s salary, but look at them now!

Dream Source: Farrow & Ball, ancient greek busts, and some really beautiful Biedermeier furniture.

Best Advice: Beauty is the function of an apartment. Flowers can make up for everything.

Green Elements/Initiatives: Furnishing an apartment almost entirely in antique/heirloom pieces. Also, in Berlin, most of the apartment buildings conserve energy by keeping the lights off in the hallways and stairwells when they don’t need to be on. The lights stay off until someone enters the building and flicks the switch. Shortly after they enter their apartment, the timed lights go off again. In addition, composting food scraps is second nature in Berlin thanks to the city’s weekly compost collection, which is used for nearby agriculture.



Shelves by Rafael Horzon
Chaise longue: German, 1920s
Desk: American, 1930s
Dark book case: German, 1920s
Red cocktail chair: Eastern Germany, 1950s
Maria Theresia-styled chandelier: ca. 1900

Living room
Biedermeier bookcase, probably 1830s
Art nouveau Desk: Germany, ca. 1910
Cherry sidetable: Louis-Philippe-style, late 1800s
Neo-rococo armchairs: German, ca. 1910, Fabric: Kenzo Constantine – cerise
Sofa: Zanotta
Chandelier: ca. 1920
China: Meissen, Nymphenburg, Hutschenreuther
Mahogany davenport: 1960s

Wardrobe: late 19th century
Mattress by Ikea

Painted oak cupboard: Bavarian, 1830
Built-in kitchen by Ikea

Accessories: flowerpots and black and white vase by Kokon, classical vase by Wedgwood; China/porcelain: Meissen, Nymphenburg, Wedgwood.

Lighting: Black Kaiser Idell lamps by Christian Dell, vintage art deco lamps and chandeliers.

Artwork: Hermann Buss “Schiffspassage” (1999)

Flooring: Original wood

(Thanks, Noemi!)

Editor’s note — This post was originally published in 2011. It’s been slightly altered and republished in 2016 because it is gorgeous!